Mark Streb

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{{#if:Mark|Firstname::Mark|}} {{#if:|Middlename::|}} {{#if:Streb|Lastname::Streb|}}

{{#if:1984|Passed away: Date of death::1984|}}

Country Served in::Niger
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{{#if:Niger|Passed away while serving in: Niger|}}
{{#ask:Served in::Niger|format=list|limit=15}}
{{#if:1984|Passed away in: 1984|}}
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Other Volunteers who passed away while serving in Peace Corps.
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Source: FOIA request #10076 (June 2010)

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Mark Streb was an extremely energetic, good-humored young man who had a natural zest for life. Mark liked skateboarding and trail bikes and generally anything that today we call extreme sports. I attended both high school and college with Mark. He lived in my "town" of Glen Arm, Maryland. We rode the same bus to school, sat at the same lunch table and inhabited each other's social orbits. The yearbook picture of Mark above actually reveals quite a lot about him. He had a buoyant personality, was quick to laugh, and generally was a joy to be around. I believe he finished second or third in the voting for class clown at our high school (Loch Raven Sr. High). Frequently, he entertained the entire lunch room with his signature comic routine, "the crab." The crab consisted of Mark walking on his hands with his legs flipped up onto his elbows so that they protruded forward like the claws of a crab. His body was lean and wiry so that this contortion was quite easy for him. As the crab, Mark would walk across the top of the lunch table and then jump to the floor, landing to applause on his forward-protruding feet.

After high school it happened that Mark and I went to the same college, the University of Delaware. I still remember the first few days at UD after my parents had dropped me off at my dorm. I'd never lived away from home before and Mark was the only person I knew. I think Mark and I both took comfort from the continuity our presence provided each other. Mark and I weren't especially close friends - our personalities were far too different. I am introverted and bookwormish and Mark was exactly the opposite. Nevertheless, at Delaware a hometown loyalty and alliance developed between us. We trusted each other and that counts for quite a lot when you're young and away from your family. The first few years of college, it turned out, were a difficult transition period for me as I struggled to find myself and to make friends. Mark made sure that I always knew what his weekend plans were and that I was invited. He was a very good person. While Mark certainly wasn't shy in high school, he didn't fit in readily with any one group. In college, Mark came into his own socially and developed greater confidence in himself. People were drawn to his charisma and charmed by his humor. As in high school, he achieved a certain level of campus-wide fame as the guy who did wacky stunts with his skateboard and bicycle.

In our junior year Mark and I, along with a mutual friend, Andy, got an apartment together. It was a cockroach-infested, two-bedroom dump of an apartment with a view of the littered McDonalds parking lot next door. An adjacent railway rattled the windows every five or six hours. It was the first time I'd lived off campus and I remember being pretty excited about it. We had a pet cat during that year which never came near me or Andy, but would snuggle lovingly with Mark every chance it got. I feel sorry for the other tenants who lived in that building because the three of us were pretty loud - although, only on the weekends since all of us took our studies seriously. Mark, who'd started out at UD majoring in mechanical engineering, had switched to medical technology by this time. As I recall, he was intimidated by the material that he had to learn. He met this challenge by channeling his boundless energy into his studies. I was very impressed with how hard he worked at his schoolwork. The seriousness with which he took his grades sometimes translated into stress. Nobody could stress out the way Mark could before an exam. He'd pace the apartment like a nervous squirrel and generally drive me and Andy nuts. Yet, invariably, Mark did well on his exams and his triumphant post-exam returns to the apartment are some of the most vivid memories I have of my time at Delaware. It would start with the sound of Mark hoisting his bicycle jauntily up the stairs in the hallway followed by a thud and a rattle as he indelicately dropped the bicycle from his shoulder just outside the apartment door. Then the door would burst open and in would flood the torrent of energy, good cheer, likability and coolness which was Mark Streb. A happy and relieved Mark was a very fun Mark. Generally, this meant it was time to party. If it was Friday, this involved calling up friends and having them over. I have memories of Mark doing his patented crab routine off the apartment's kitchen counter during some of our parties at the apartment. If called to testify, I can confirm that Mark had a lot of fun times in college and that these times were all the more enjoyable to him because he had so thoroughly earned them.

It was during this same school year that Mark began dating a woman whose name I forget. Let's call her Cathy. Cathy had an identical twin and like many sets of twins, she and her sister were inseparable. This meant that wherever Mark and Cathy went, Cathy's twin sister went as well - which was a bit awkward to put it mildly. As far as I could tell Cathy's twin was not an evil twin, but she certainly didn't have much interest in sharing her sister. Mark was pretty frustrated that he could never get any alone time with Cathy. To the outsider it looked as though Mark was dating both women simultaneously. This appearance and the fact that the two women were identical was, as you can imagine, fodder for quite a lot of jokes amongst Mark's friends and acquaintances. Mark was never bothered by these jokes and laughed along with them. He had a great sense of humor even about himself, which made him all the more likeable.

During our senior year, me and Mark's paths began to diverge. We lived on opposite sides of the campus and I fell in with a group of politically active students. While I spent much of my time planning and participating in protests against U.S. involvement in El Salvador, Mark got even more serious about his studies and future career. After college, I moved to Atlanta and lost contact with Mark (to my regret). When I got the call from a friend in Baltimore soon after my move informing me that Mark had died in a traffic accident in Niger, it was a moment of deep sorrow and shock. The immensity of the tragedy and the terrible injustice of it affected me greatly. Why Mark, I've often wondered? Of all people, why someone who was just on fire with enthusiasm for life? Why someone who was just getting started on the journey that he'd worked so hard to prepare himself for? There are no answers to questions like that, of course, and even if there was, I suspect that they wouldn't make anyone feel better.

It's one of the unfortunate realities of life that you frequently don't realize a person's significance until they are gone. Mark had a big influence on me at a time when I was still learning to be an adult. His work ethic, his humor, his charisma, his kindness, his loyalty, and his sheer exultation with life made an enormous impression on me. He had a lot of rare qualities and I wish I had known at Delaware how short his time was. I wish it was possible to talk to him today, commenting on pictures of his children and his vacations on FaceBook. Mark's fate taught me that nothing is guaranteed in this life. Whenever I think of Mark, I remind myself to enjoy and savor the remarkable gift of life. I was lucky to have known Mark as well as I did. Rest in peace, Mark. You are missed.

Steven Krut (